Government documents and sworn testimony from an American Civil Liberties Union-led lawsuit have revealed that federal immigration officials “are asserting near-unfettered authority to search and seize travelers’ devices at the border, for purposes far afield from the enforcement of immigration and customs laws,” the group says.
The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation sued in 2017, saying that “‘warrantless and suspicionless searches’ of electronic devices at the U.S. ports of entry violated the First and Fourth amendments,” NPR reported. The groups say that documents and sworn testimony from this lawsuit indicate immigration officials are using the “pretext of the ‘border’ to make an end run around the Constitution” and claim they can search whatever the hell they want to.
Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement “say they can search a traveler’s electronic devices to find information about someone else,” including family members who may be in the U.S. without authorization. “Both agencies allow officers to retain information from travelers’ electronic devices and share it with other government entities, including state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies.”
“Crossing the U.S. border shouldn’t mean facing the prospect of turning over years of emails, photos, location data, medical and financial information, browsing history, or other personal information on our mobile devices,” the ACLU continued. “That’s why we’re asking a federal court to rule that border agencies must do what any other law enforcement agency would have to do in order to search electronic devices: get a warrant.”
Meanwhile, it was just last month that the president of the United States reportedly told border agents to violate the law and illegally block asylum-seekers at the border, “telling the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection that if he went to jail for blocking those legally seeking asylum, Trump would grant him a pardon.”
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